Deconstructing the Leahy Law: Fact vs Fiction

Photo Credit: Amnesty International

Photo Credit: Amnesty International

This post was written in collaboration with Nate Smith, of the AIUSA Military, Security and Police (MSP) Coordination group.

There are some misconceptions currently floating around about the U.S. government’s Leahy Law and we want to set the record straight on a few things. The Leahy Law is a powerful yet often-overlooked tool to help prevent the U.S. government from directly arming human rights violators in the ranks of foreign security forces and to help the U.S. avoid complicity in the commission of human rights violations.

So how can you distill fact from fiction? Allow us to deconstruct some of the facts, fictions and misconceptions about the Leahy Law. And expect more in the coming weeks about this important law, and other instruments available to the U.S. and global community to prevent arming human rights perpetrators.

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Torture in Mexico: ‘I Still Think It Was a Nightmare’


It took Miriam Isaura López Vargas several weeks to piece together what happened to her after she was tortured and raped by Mexican soldiers.

On February 2, 2011, the 30-year-old mother of four had just dropped three of her children at school in the city of Ensenada, located in northern Mexico, when two men wearing balaclavas forced her into a white van and took her away.

Until then, Miriam didn’t know the men were soldiers or that she was being taken to a military barracks. She was blindfolded and her hands were tied.

“I didn’t know who they were or anything, and when I asked them they put a gun to my head and told me to shut up or they would blow my head off,” she told Amnesty International.

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Loud and Clear: Women’s Rights, In Action!

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda  (right) attends the 2008 Benefactrix Ball presented by YMCA at the Beverly Hills Hotel (Photo Credit: Leon Bennett/WireImage).

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda (right) attends the 2008 Benefactrix Ball presented by YMCA at the Beverly Hills Hotel (Photo Credit: Leon Bennett/WireImage).

As we reflected on 50 Days of Action for Women and Girls and its themes, including early marriage, violence against women, and sexual and reproductive health, we got to wondering: What does all this integrated human rights talk look like in practice?

So we turned to a woman who walks the talk and leads change herself, Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda. Take a look at her examples of women’s participation in claiming their own rights. Then take action on an issue important to you, and join us on Facebook and Twitter to stay connected. (Don’t forget to join the World YWCA’s efforts, too!)

In your experience, what does participation mean in the context of women’s rights in your country?

For women to participate, it [is] important that they know and are aware of their rights, have the social empowerment to engage and the space to exercise their voice. Women’s community groups, organizations and networks…have provided the platforms for such participation.

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Good News: U.K. Prime Minister Cameron Raises Shaker Aamer With President Obama

Shaker Aamer (Photo Credit: Department of Defense/MCT via Getty Images)

Shaker Aamer (Photo Credit: Department of Defense/MCT via Getty Images)

Shaker Aamer is a U.K. resident who has been held in U.S. custody since 2001 – originally detained in notorious detention facilities at the Bagram and Kandahar Air Force bases in Afghanistan before being transferred in February 2002 to Guantanamo Bay. He was allegedly tortured – both in Afghanistan and during his time at Guantanamo – and has now been on hunger strike for more than 120 days, joining more than 100 other detainees at the facility who are also on strike.

In a recent op-ed in the Guardian, Shaker stated that every day at Guantanamo is torture. He finished the piece with this poignant point: “I hope I do not die in this awful place. I want to hug my children and watch them as they grow. But if it is God’s will that I should die here, I want to die with dignity. I hope, if the worst comes to the worst, that my children will understand that I cared for the rights of those suffering around me almost as much as I care for them.”

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El Salvador’s Government Finally Acts to #SaveBeatriz

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After over two months of dragging its feet, the Salvadoran government has finally acted to save Beatriz’s life. On Monday, Beatriz, the young mother we’ve posted frequently about, received an early cesarean section and is now recovering in the hospital.

Our activism helped to save Beatriz’s life.

The hundreds of thousands of people around the world who mobilized on Beatriz’s behalf helped make it possible for her to – upon recovery – be able to return home to her family which is what she has wanted all along. Because of this overwhelming support, Beatriz was never alone in her struggle to access the medical care she wanted and needed.

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Eyes on El Salvador: will officials act to #SaveBeatriz?

There has been an overwhelming amount of global support over the past few weeks for Beatriz and those in El Salvador working tirelessly on her behalf to save her life. Much of this support has emerged online via Twitter, Facebook, blogs and other outlets. Because of these digital tools, countless people are closely following events unfold in El Salvador and calling on the authorities to uphold their international human rights obligations by immediately granting Beatriz authorization for an abortion.

Will Salvadoran authorities listen to Beatriz’s plea and take action to save her life in accordance with her wishes and at the advice of the medical professionals caring for her?

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Guatemala’s Trial of the Decade in Ten Facts

Former Guatemalan leader General José Efraín Rios Montt is currently facing trial for genocide during his time in office (Photo Credit: Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images).

Former Guatemalan leader General José Efraín Rios Montt is currently facing trial for genocide during his time in office (Photo Credit: Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images).

The trial against former Guatemalan leader General José Efraín Rios Montt for genocide during his time in office has restarted. Here are 10 reasons that show why the Central American country’s dark past is still relevant today.

1. Guatemala is located in Central America, bordering Mexico. Around half of its population is indigenous, including many Maya peoples. The country is one of the most unequal in the region - with high rates of illiteracy, infant mortality and malnutrition, particularly in the countryside. Organized crime and violence are also widespread.

2. Between 1960 and 1996, Guatemala was immersed in a bloody internal armed conflict that pitted the army against guerrilla groups. More than 200,000 men, women and children were murdered or disappeared during this 36-year-long war, most of them were indigenous.

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Two Minutes to Fight for Freedom in Turkey

Supporters of Fazil Say, a world-renowned Turkish pianist who went before an Istanbul court on charges of insulting Islam and offending Muslims in comments he made on Twitter (Photo Credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images).

Supporters of Fazil Say, a world-renowned Turkish pianist who went before an Istanbul court on charges of insulting Islam and offending Muslims in comments he made on Twitter (Photo Credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images).

In Turkey, freedom of expression is under attack. But you can make a difference. And it will only take two minutes of your time to add your voice to calls for real freedom in Turkey.

The Criminalization of Dissent

The situation is grave. Overly broad anti-terrorism laws have led to the prosecution of people for their ideas. An elderly grandmother has been convicted under terrorism charges for calling for peace between Turks and Kurds. Students, publishers, scholars and lawyers…all have been targeted under laws that confuse peaceful dissent for criminal violence. Moreover, Turkey has retained a series of laws that directly limit freedom of expression. In its most recent report, Amnesty International documents case after case in which Turkish authorities continue to attack individuals for peacefully expressing their ideas.

The force of these laws ripple through Turkish society. There is a concerted effort to depoliticize universities. The arrest of scores of journalists has justifiably damaged Turkey’s international reputation.

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Tweet for Freedom in Turkey: Say No to the Criminalization of Dissent!

Journalists and activists participate in a rally for press freedom and against the detention of journalists under anti-terrorism laws in the capital of Ankara (Photo Credit: Ümit Bektas/Reuters).

Journalists and activists participate in a rally for press freedom and against the detention of journalists under anti-terrorism laws in the capital of Ankara (Photo Credit: Ümit Bektas/Reuters).

In a major report this week, Amnesty International has outlined the wide range of legal tools that Turkish authorities have used to target political dissent and limit freedom of expressionScholars, students, journalists, human rights activists, and thousands of others have been subject to prosecution and lengthy punishment under these statutes. But you can join us in working for real reform in Turkey!

Amnesty has noted that:

The most negative development in recent years has been the increasingly arbitrary use of anti-terrorism laws to prosecute legitimate activities including political speeches, critical writing, attendance of demonstrations and association with recognized political groups and organizations – in violation of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.

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